Bessie Guthrie, an early feminist, lived in this house all her life. She helped found Elsie Women’s Refuge, the first women’s refuge in Australia.
97 Derwent Street
Bessie Guthrie and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Bessie Guthrie (1905 – 1977) was involved in feminist issues all her life. She founded Viking Press, which published women’s writing, in 1939. ‘In 1970 she walked into the office of the Women’s Liberation Movement, based at 67 Glebe Point Road with the greeting of: “I’ve been waiting for you women to get here all my life.” She opened her home to young women who were victims of domestic violence and abuse and became a passionate crusader for young women incarcerated in Bidura and other children’s “shelters”. Guthrie actively campaigned to protect neglected young women, and wanted a safe place for them to stay.’ (Max Solling, p207-8)
In 1974 Guthrie, together with Anne Summers, Jennifer Dakers and others of the Women’s Liberation Movement squatted in two vacant houses, 73 and 75 Westmoreland Street to found Elsie Women’s Refuge Night Shelter. The first women’s refuge in Australia, it shifted to 108 Derwent Street in 1975 before moving to its current address.